What is it that makes someone, seemingly in their prime and with everything going for them, take their own life at the young age of 42? I suppose we will never really know just what was going through Gary Speed’s mind when he took that fateful decision on November 27 2011. For the uninitiated, Welshman Gary was an English Premier League footballer who had retired from playing and was manager of the Welsh national team. As a player he made a record number of appearances in the EPL with Leeds United, Everton, Newcastle United and Bolton Wanderers. He finished his playing career outside the Premier League with Sheffield United. On Saturday 26 November 2011 Gary had appeared on the BBC’s football focus programme and was outwardly upbeat and positive about life in general and his job as manager of Wales. Off camera he had spoken enthusiastically to the presenter about his kids and also told how he was looking forward to playing golf the following week. A few hours later he was found hanging by his wife.
I am not writing this post because I am a fan of Gary or the club’s he played for, but rather to demonstrate once again the awesome power of the human spirit. As stated I was not particularly a fan but as a follower of the EPL I was well aware of Gary’s achievements and his influence both on and off the field. He was a real leader of men and a great motivator; so well respected in football circles far and wide. This influence was demonstrated aptly by the way he transformed the fortunes of the Welsh national team, who as a small country were so often the whipping boys of the international arena. But Gary Speed went in there and made those players believe in themselves. They started punching well above their weight and began to give the big boys a run for their money. I remember the recent European Championship qualifier between England and Wales at Wembley and how unbelievably lucky England were to escape with a 1-0 victory.
Yesterday (3 December 2011) just prior to kick-off at football grounds throughout the country, fans and players alike put aside their petty prejudices and rivalry and united as one in their appreciation of a man who gave so much to the game of football. Grown men wept openly as Gary Speed’s spirit touched their soul. The question “why” will no doubt resonate within the minds of those who were closest to Gary for some time to come, but I cannot help thinking that out of this tragic event there is a wonderful ray of light shining so brightly; namely the lasting influence of Gary Speed on the game of football. Fans and players of all clubs have been deeply moved by his passing, and this is no mean feat even in death, because footballers and football fans in general can be the most fickle of people and you don’t get to be such an influence on their lives unless you are of exceptional character; and Gary Speed certainly was.
R.I.P Gary we hope you are now free from your torment. You have left this Earth in the same way that you lived your life on it; by being a positive influence on others. We are living in very difficult times but yesterday your memory helped people to put all their cares and worries to one side as they united as one, one heart, one voice. What those people felt as they wept was the unifying power of the spirit. What they experienced in that moment was love in all its glory; if only this could be understood and put into practice in all walks of life. If it was, what a different place the world would be.